Wednesday, July 29, 2015


The wind was cold, but elicited fascinating canopy mechanics, starting in the morning with a stray open umbrella, inscriber of arcs with a fledgling's instincts, moving by its leaning in the courtyard.

Friday, July 24, 2015

I would like to read my work when I visit the Isle of Wight next week, but there will be no conventional performances.

I could never do a performance in front of footlights, with a thick curtain behind me, and so have come up with a new concept: if no one is there, I will be there anyway, at the site of Swinburne's grave at 8.45 p.m. on the 29th of July, reading "Paradox" and other poems. I have posted an announcement on my Facebook page. I don't expect anyone to be there, nor, consequently, any cause for me to read, and in that respect this gig is something that is hoped for whilst illusory and impossible to achieve.

I recently saw Carol Ann Duffy perform in a conventional venue in Winchester. I started thinking on my way home about what I might do, being as I am so adverse to the idea of performing my work, and then I thought about the dreams I have of seeing artists or poets, most recently Gerard Manley Hopkins. In those dreams, they are up close to me, not on a stage, and the light is soft, crepuscular, and I can smell their clothes, and talk with them, and the occasion feels both friendly and profound.

But of course they are dreams, where the air is always barmy. It is raining elsewhere in Hampshire today, and it will probably be raining on that evening in Bonchurch. Perhaps "the great missed gig" is missed already.

No One Came (update: 30th July)

In the forging of my poems, I rely on two forces: rejection and recognition. The event at St. Boniface church might be regarded as a calm and friendly meeting place in the lull between these two forces, a place to make sense of the paradox, an opportunity to see me read made deliberately obscure, so much that I envisaged no one would take it up.

Gerard Manley Hopkins was never published in his lifetime, and only six people, close friends of his, even knew that he wrote, so it follows that attendance for any reading he would have organised would have been small. With a time machine at their disposal now, surely tens of thousands of people would attend. And so it was that my gig at St. Boniface was conceived, mischievously with one eye on posterity as a "great missed gig".

Driving to the venue at Bonchurch, I marvelled at a rainbow and by extension its sharp reflection in the sea. Minutes later, nearing the time I was scheduled to read, the rain had stopped but the rainbow remained above where I stood alone in the graveyard; and then I saw how it was distending closer towards me, picked up by raindrops loosening from the branches directly above Swinburne's grave. It was the sole attendee.

Walking down towards the coastal path afterwards, past the stepped rooftops, imbrications within imbrications, I contemplated the plight of the migrants, and I looked through the window of a pottery workshop. What a lucky person, I thought, to be doing what they love doing so leisurely by the sea.

I could remain neglected in all eras, mildew warping the pagination of my manuscript, but I have, have now, but I feel, feel now, the sun’s warmth on my back as I sit in a Freshwater tea garden, near the thumbnail islets; as I watch a wagtail pecking at crumbs, and then spy through the window of a house bare walls, a light bulb without a shade, a caseless duvet before being made, things suggestive of unsettledness. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Paradox (dual lines beside Swinburne's grave)

I needed to write to feel rejected and thereby have something to write about,
But my fluency, provisional until people follow,
Mounts when they respond, even when migraine wrecks that purchasing gwick in my swallow;
And reconciling rejection with recognition I hear my daughter cry out
"Papa!" in the night. There is such fear in her voice: "I dreamt you were pushing the swing
Without me in the seat, and it was swinging round the bar hitting you on the head.
Each time you were hit you looked at me, Papa, like you were getting more bewildered."

The swing's seat by sudden discontinuities in its revolutions, jouncing
And catapulting into my head, is my conceit, Swinburne,
(The gravestone looks askance,) excessive applications of treatment for scalp ringworm
To jaundice myself, so that I may feel like I am inexorably nearing
Death (the lobed hilt of its carved sword holding the atheist in a sacred redoubt);
But my knowing that I can cease treatment and presently be safely delivered
Precludes me from capitalising on concentrated thought. Merely bewildered,
I am merely bewildered.
                (In locus below the ledger's tang, bones may not hear me,
                Nor pressed primroses to press-gang a heathen's corpse)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lines Enhanced by a Word Suggested by Nick Duffy

For all its innovation and promise, internet mail cannot compete with the old Bromyard PO box system, through which I used to send Stephen Duffy handwritten letters. Losing the address in a house move when I was 18 seemed to signal the end of my childhood. Years later, I found it again, one morning when the sun caught the old dining table in such a way as to reveal the address scratched into the wood. I must have left the impression when zealously pressing my pen on an envelope as a 12-year-old boy. Back then, people I admired received and read my letters, replying sporadically, but now is the age of Facebook's "Other" folder, and I fear that I am interminably "other".

Diabolical horn'ed crown-flanks gash
A dining room table's ballpoint cache
Disinterred by partly expanded
Bellows of sun. The heavy-handed
12-year-old's sub-franked glyphs are defaced;
Other of Other, address misplaced
In a house move, now lost unreprised
And without indemnity realised.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Tinea Capitis and a Recollection of Three Letters

When I was looking for work after graduating, NatWest closed my account suddenly. That week I received three letters. The first was a letter from the local surgery informing me that I had been struck off my doctor's practice list. Next came the letter from the bank, explaining that it was costing more money than was in the account to keep it open. As it turned out, a member of the surgery's administration staff had made an error, easily resolved with a single phone call, but the incontrovertible letter from the bank affected me deeply.

In my mind the bank's decision betrayed a broader appraisal of my prospects. I was only 21. It was damning, and dejection, despite a switch to Lloyds that same afternoon, despite all the subsequent years, lingers, lingers long after that week in 1993, a week when it felt like my health and finances were being dismantled following certification of my death, a week when a third letter informed me that my application to be a marketing assistant for a firm selling fire-protection paint had been unsuccessful.

Alas, there is no money in poetry and so the bank's expediency, but for its lack of kindliness, appears to be vindicated; and I am here, at a place where morbidity and mortality meet, 1.46 am, taking photos of my feet. My scalp half beset with ringworm, as I am half jaundiced by the physic, with yellowing eyes and clay stools, I make a study of feet (the redeemer's feet?). For a malady so trivial I take overmuch, overmuch.

Morbidity of Terbinafine

One so seminal when the form is no longer important,
His poetry having little to do with any, has no truck with shop;
But it was shop to go and see the laureate and water

At the Theatre Royal, like a zombie-ant climbing to a tree's top;

With erumpent ringworm and a failing liver,

Having swapped alcohol
For the coconut and awl,
Having little to do with any, pointing to change

Where no changes may transpire,

Climbing like a zombie-ant to sycophantic mantle.